New Jersey is an equitable division state. In all actions where a judgment of divorce, dissolution of civil union, divorce from bed and board or legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple is entered, the court may make such award or awards to the parties, in addition to alimony and maintenance, to effectuate an equitable distribution of the property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by them or either of them during the marriage or civil union.
However, all such property, real, personal or otherwise, legally or beneficially acquired during the marriage or civil union by either party by way of gift, devise, or intestate succession shall not be subject to equitable distribution, except for gifts between spouses or between partners in a civil union couple which shall be subject to equitable distribution.
In making a determination for equitable distribution of property, the court shall consider the following factors:
- The duration of the marriage or civil union
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties
- The income or property brought to the marriage or civil union by each party
- The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union
- Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage or civil union concerning an arrangement of property distribution
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective
- The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage or civil union
- The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other
- The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, or the property acquired during the civil union as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker
- The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party
- The present value of the property
- The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence or residence shared by the partners in a civil union couple and to use or own the household effects
- The debts and liabilities of the parties
- The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse, partner in a civil union couple or children
- The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant
The court may not make an award concerning the equitable distribution of property on behalf of a party convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to murder the other party. No person convicted of Murder; Manslaughter; Criminal Homicide; Aggravated Assault; or a substantially similar offense under the laws of another jurisdiction may receive alimony if the crime results in death or serious bodily injury to a family member of a divorcing party; and the crime was committed after the marriage or civil union.
Couples, generally with the assistance of qualified New Jersey attorneys, can make decisions about property division amongst themselves prior to or during their divorce actions. Once you are educated about the factors and entitlements considered by the New Jersey Family Courts when deciding issues related to property division, you and your spouse can decide what you think is fair and develop a settlement agreement based upon your own terms. You should use the assistance of a qualified New Jersey family law attorney to negotiate and/or draft and review your agreement to ensure that you understand what you are agreeing to.